Shops could be forced to close as customers have been put off visiting Birmingham city centre following the riots, a retail boss has warned.
Jonathan Cheetham, chairman of Retail Birmingham – an organisation set up to support the city centre’s 1,000 shops – urged shoppers to start supporting city stores, which are still blighted by the disturbances.
He said the looting has seen a subsequent drop in trade as people steer clear of the city through fear of further outbreaks of lawlessness.
“This abhorrent behaviour has come against a backdrop of an economic downturn which has seen many Birmingham retailers already struggling to stay afloat,” he said. “There are shops targeted by the looters who have lost stock and windows, but there’s also the fact that sadly people have been put off coming to shop and enjoy themselves in this great city.
"For some stores the despicable events of this week will be the final straw for their businesses.
“These mindless, thieving thugs should be ashamed of themselves, they have to live with the knowledge that it was their unforgiveable behaviour that has taken the livelihoods away from some retailers and their employees.”
He said the riots have lost the local economy at least £7 million and that figure will increase unless consumer confidence returns to normal.
Mr Cheetham, who has held daily emergency meetings with shop owners, council chiefs and emergency workers to ensure retailers are protected, applauded the work of West Midlands Police.
“It is a comfort to know the police have acted swiftly and are continuing to work around the clock to catch the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” he said.
He added he felt “positive” for the future of Birmingham’s retail sector. ‘‘Retail Birmingham has and always will do all it can to help the businesses it represents and we are confident shoppers will return to the city and it will be business as usual,” he added.